The 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, which aired live on Sunday night from Brooklyn's Barclays Center for the first time ever, had one thing on its mind: performance, performance, performance. 'NSync reunited. Lady Gaga re-emerged. And Katy Perry delivered a knockout punch. In fact, there were more performances than awards given out (fewer than 10 awards were handed out during the two-and-a-half hour show).
For the awards that were given out, it was a mixed bag of winners, with no single artist dominating. However, Justin Timberlake took home the night's two biggest awards, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis walked away with two as well.
Lady Gaga opened the show with new single "Applause," her first major performance since canceling the tail-end of her "Born This Way Ball" tour and undergoing hip surgery in February. Keeping in line with her latest performance-art persona, she seamlessly changed in and out of elaborate costumes and wigs several times throughout the song – from an all-white Flying Nun-type outfit to a black-sequined leotard to a string bikini made out of seashells – while seemingly lip-syncing her way through the song.
But the night belonged to Justin Timberlake, who was presented with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award, performing for a solid 15 minutes to celebrate the win, including a brief reunion with his former group 'NSync. He also walked away with the biggest award of the night, Video of the Year, for "Mirrors."
It was Timberlake's first performance at the VMAs in six years, and the first time he's performed with 'NSync since 2003. The reunion was a mere 90 seconds, with the group singing and dancing to two of its biggest hits: "Bye Bye Bye" and "Girlfriend." The rest of the time Timberlake performed solo, singing a medley of his hits, from "Like I Love You" and "Cry Me a River" to "Suit & Tie" and "Mirrors." In his acceptance speech, he made a point to say that he wanted to "share the award" with his former bandmates, jokingly adding, "We can keep it at my house."
The most moving performance of the night, however, came from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (featuring Mary Lambert and joined onstage by Jennifer Hudson), who sang "Same Love" soon after winner the award for Best Video With a Social Message for its pro-gay marriage stance. During the acceptance speech, Macklemore said, "To watch this song spread across the world is a testament to what is happening right now in America on the forefront of equality. Gay rights are human rights; there is no separation." The duo also won Best Hip-Hop Video for "Can't Hold Us," featuring Ray Dalton.
But not all of the night's performances were winners. Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke did a haphazard (and at times cringe-worthy) mash-up of "We Can't Stop" and "Blurred Lines" that featured giant dancing teddy bears and Cyrus twerking and groping Thicke. And Kanye West gave a dark performance of "Blood on the Leaves" where he mostly appeared in silhouette against a backdrop of trees and was heavily bleeped for offensive language. Both Cyrus and Thicke walked away empty-handed, despite being nominated in three categories each and having some of the biggest hits of the summer. West wasn't nominated at all.
The Best Song of the Summer award went to One Direction for "Best Song Ever," which beat out Cyrus' "We Can't Stop," Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky."
Meanwhile, Taylor Swift won Best Female Video for "I Knew You Were Trouble." During her speech, she alluded to her short-lived fling with One Direction's Harry Styles, saying, "I want to thank the person who inspired this song – who knows exactly who he is – 'cause now I got one of these," as the camera awkwardly cut to Styles.
The show ended with Katy Perry doing a fun, boxing-themed take on her latest hit single "Roar," from under the Brooklyn Bridge.
The complete list of winners is below. (All of the categories were based on viewer votes, except for the Video Vanguard Award.)
Video of the Year: Justin Timberlake, "Mirrors"
Best Song of the Summer: One Direction, "Best Song Ever"
Best Female Video: Taylor Swift, "I Knew You Were Trouble"
Best Male Video: Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"
Best Pop Video: Selena Gomez, "Come and Get It"
Best Hip-Hop Video: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton, "Can't Hold Us"
Best Rock Video: 30 Seconds to Mars, "Up in the Air" (announced during pre-show)
Best Collaboration: Pink featuring Nate Ruess, "Give Me a Reason" (announced during pre-show)
Best Video With a Social Message: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert, "Same Love"
Artist to Watch: Austin Mahone
Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award: Justin Timberlake